Exploring the Future of Real World Situations

Foresight helps us explore how the world around us might change what the implications might be and hence how we may want to try an influence the direction of change and/or adapt. However, we can only ever have a partial understanding of “real” world situations for two reasons:

1) What we ‘see’ is always framed by our partial perspectives, our assumptions, the limits of methodology and the consequences of where we place the boundaries of what we are exploring. (Click here for a write-up on dealing with incomplete knowledge in complex systems)

2) Our social and ecological worlds are complex adaptive systems with multiple and complex relationships and feedback loops that the future is impossible to fully predict.

Consequently foresight can never be about ‘predicting’ the future. Rather, it is a cyclical process of constant learning and adaption to help to improve our judgments about the best ‘anticipatory’ actions to take given the best assessments we can make about  possible future risks and opportunities.

Ramirez and Wilkinson (2016) in their book “Strategic Reframing” recognize that foresight is undertaken in what that call TUNA conditions:

  • Turbulence
  • Unpredictable
  • Uncertainty
  • Novelty and
  • Ambiguity

Overall, a foresight process is about enabling actors to have better insight into this ‘real world’, how it might change, how it could affect collective and individual interests, and the implications for taking action. Actions taken (and many other factors) will influence the ‘real world situation’, creating a new situation that calls for a new assessment of the situation – an iterative and ongoing process of foresight (learning).